Every so often I suppose I should actually drop some helpful information in here. For those contemplating the application process, please enjoy an outline of the many months it took to procure recommendations, and plan accordingly.
September: Decided to apply to graduate school. Freaked out that I didn’t have enough professors to write letters. Flooded any and all office hours.
October: Began scoping out referees. Had long conversations about my field, interests, background, career plans, etc. Got so good at this that I could repeat all relevant information in under 4 minutes. Formally requested letters. Made a pretty chart with all mailing addresses and deadlines to aid referees in their quest.
Mood: Shockingly Calm
November: One month from first deadlines. Hardcore old-school referee insisted on typing each letter on a typewriter; advised him to start soon. Online application program to upload recommendations crashed; spent hours emailing graduate coordinator for help. Referee misspelled my unspellable last name; spent hours emailing graduate coordinator to correct the problem. Found renewed appreciation for graduate coordinators.
Mood: A Little Nuts
December: Deadlines arrived. Everyone was sick with the flu. Referees waited until the Robitussin phase has passed to write letters (widely considered the correct move). Spent many hours being told that letters can arrive past the deadline without believing it.
January: Compulsively checked application status websites. Recommendations were missing. Tracked down referees in a state of panic, new letters were sent. [Note: This will always happen on a weekend when there is no one to talk to at the prospective department.]
Mood: Utterly Impatient
One day I’ll have the time to sit around and ponder what those letters of recommendation actually entail. But now I’m too busy reloading these admission status pages.